Space travel, rocket science, astronomical research – logically, we know these things exist. And yet, when you observe them in practice, it's pretty damn mindblowing. We don't launch a whole lot of things into space here in Australia, so NASA's June voyage from the Nothern Territory is pretty groundbreaking. In fact, this launch represents more than one first for Australia – the first from the new Arnhem Space Centre and the first commercial rocket to be deployed by NASA outside of the USA.
Launching just after midnight on Monday, June 27, the 13-metre 'sounding rocket' will transport a viewing platform through the atmosphere to examine the Alpha A and B constellations. "Without getting too deep into the science, it was effectively a large X-ray camera looking at various astrological phenomena and trying to capture parts of boulders in the Milky Way and particularly the star cluster of Alpha Centauri,” said Arnhem Space Centre CEO, Michael Jones.
Though it's the first rocket to leave Australian soil since 1996, Jones said the Arnhem Land site's location and proximity to the equator positioned it as a hub for future space travel. “Being 12 degrees south gives us an astrodynamic and physics advantage over a lot of launch sites around the world and is highly desirable for large and complex orbital solutions in space.”
The Arnhem Space Centre is located in East Arnhem, 31km outside of Nhulunbuy and is set to increase its capability to host 50 launches a year by 2024. You can find out more about the landmark site here.